IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

12.2.2 Non-climate factors and trends

Europe has the highest population density (60 persons/km2) of any continent. Of the total European population, 73% lives in urban areas (UN, 2004), with 67% in southern Europe and 83% in northern Europe. The 25 countries belonging to the European Union (EU25) have stable economies, high productivity and integrated markets. Economic conditions among the non-EU countries are more varied. European income (as annual gross domestic product (GDP) per capita based on market exchange rate) ranges from US$1,760 in Moldova to US$55,500 in Luxembourg (World Bank, 2005). The EU25 cover 60% of the total European population, but only 17% of the total European land area and 36% of its agricultural area. In 2003, the European Union (EU) with its then 15 countries (EU15), contributed 20% of global GDP and 40% of global exports of goods and services (IMF, 2004). Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) plus European Russia constituted 16% of global GDP.

Since 1990, countries in CEE have undergone dramatic economic and political change towards a market economy and democracy and, for some countries, also integration in the EU. Annual GDP growth rates have exceeded 4% for all CEE countries and Russia, as compared to 2% in the EU (IMF, 2004).

Energy use in Europe constituted circa 30% of global energy consumption in 2003 (EEA, 2006a). More than 60% of this consumption occurred in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries (EEA, 2006a), whereas oil resources in Russia alone are more than four times higher than those of OECD Europe. Combustion of fossil fuels accounts for almost 80% of total energy consumption and 55% of electricity production in EU25 (EEA, 2006a). The large reliance on external fossil fuel resources has led to an increasing focus on renewable energy sources, including bioenergy (EEA, 2006a, b). In 2003, renewable energy contributed 6% and 13% to total energy and gross electricity consumption in EU25, respectively (EEA, 2006a).

The EU25 in 2002 had average greenhouse gas emissions of 11 tonnes CO2 per capita (EEA, 2004a) and this is projected to increase to 12 tonnes CO2 per capita in 2030 under baseline conditions (EEA, 2006a). Most European countries have ratified the Kyoto Protocol, and the EU15 countries have a common reduction target between 2008 and 2012 of 8% (Babiker and Eckaus, 2002). From 1990 to 2003 EU25 greenhouse gas emissions, excluding Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF), decreased by 5.5%, but emissions in the transport sector grew 23% in the EU15 (EEA, 2005).

The hydrological characteristics of Europe are very diverse, as well as its approaches to water use and management. Of the total withdrawals of 30 European countries (EU plus adjacent countries) 32% are for agriculture, 31% for cooling water in power stations, 24% for the domestic sector and 13% for manufacturing (Flörke and Alcamo, 2005). Freshwater abstraction is stable or declining in northern Europe and growing slowly in southern Europe (Flörke and Alcamo, 2005). There are many pressures on water quality and availability including those arising from agriculture, industry, urban areas, households and tourism (Lallana et al., 2001). Recent floods and droughts have placed additional stresses on water supplies and infrastructure (Estrela et al., 2001).

Europe is one of the world’s largest and most productive suppliers of food and fibre (in 2004: 21% of global meat production and 20% of global cereal production). About 80% of this production occurred in the EU25. The productivity of European agriculture is generally high, in particular in western Europe: average cereal yields in the EU are more than 60% higher than the global average. During the last decade the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has been reformed to reduce overproduction, reduce environmental impacts and improve rural development. This is not expected to greatly affect agricultural production in the short term (OECD, 2004). However, agricultural reforms are expected to enhance the current process of structural adjustment leading to larger and fewer farms (Marsh, 2005).

The forested areas of Europe are increasing and annual fellings are considerably below sustainable levels (EEA, 2002). Forest policies have been modified during the past decade to promote multiple forest services at the expense of timber production (Kankaanpää and Carter, 2004). European forests are a sink of atmospheric CO2 of about 380 Tg C/yr (mid 1990s) (Janssens et al., 2003). However, CO2 emissions from the agricultural and peat sectors reduce the net carbon uptake in Europe’s terrestrial biosphere to between 135 and 205 Tg C/yr, equivalent to 7 to 12% of European anthropogenic emissions in 1995 (Janssens et al., 2003).

Despite policies to protect fish, over-fishing has put many fish stocks in European waters outside sustainable limits (62-92% of commercial fish stocks in north-eastern Atlantic, 100% in the western Irish Sea, 75% in the Baltic Sea, and 65-70% in the Mediterranean) (EEA, 2002; Gray and Hatchard, 2003). Aquaculture is increasing its share of the European fish market leading to possible adverse environmental impacts in coastal waters (Read and Fernandes, 2003).

Increasing urbanisation and tourism, as well as intensification of agriculture, have put large pressures on land resources (EEA, 2004a), yet there is increasing political attention given to the sustainable use of land and natural resources. Despite general reductions in the extent of air pollution in Europe over the last decades, significant problems still remain with acidification, terrestrial nitrogen deposition, ozone, particulate matter and heavy metals (WGE, 2004). Environmental protection in the EU has led to several directives such as the Emissions Ceilings Directive and the Water Framework Directive. The EU Species and Habitats Directive and the Wild Birds Directive have been integrated in the Natura 2000 network, which protects nature in over 18% of the EU territory. Awareness of environmental issues is also growing in CEE (TNS Opinion and Social, 2005).